A/N: Hello, all! Welcome to my first original story EVER. I hope you all enjoy it! I wrote it for nanowrimo, so I have 50,000 words written so far (still not finished, but about half is done), so if this is well received I can update very regularly. I'm very new at writing so I would appreciate ANY constructive criticism at all. I really hope to be a published author one day so seriously, ANY feedback whatsoever will be welcomed. Also, my grammar in my author notes will almost always be horrible because I let my enthusiasm spam the keyboard but don't worry, it's much better in the actual story.
ALSO. At the beginning of most chapters, there will be a song recommendation underneath the title. These songs have inspired the chapters either based on lyrics (such as this first chapter) or simply atmosphere. It's not required to listen to them obviously, but in my opinion, it has a pretty solid soundtrack that I think adds a lot to the story. But I'm obviously biased haha.
Anyways, please enjoy! Don't forget to review and follow because chapters will be added regularly. :) If I get enough feedback I will try to come up with a schedule for each chapter getting released.
Nausea – Jeff Rosenstock
When did life get so bleak?
This was a question Alice Black repeatedly asked herself, but she found herself asking it even more as she peeled the soggy napkin from her brother's beer can filled kitchen counter. How could someone who once had so much potential, so many aspirations, find themselves trapped in the monotony of working a dead-end, minimum wage waitressing job? Being a doctor at one point seemed like a possibility…or at least the creator of the new hot social-media application. Unfortunately, at the age of 25, it appeared reality stomped out those dreams.
"Alice, get me a beer," barked Alice's brother, Simon, as he button-smashed his video game controller from his living room.
Soggy napkin in hand, she scowled as she observed the filth around her. Fruit flies hovered above the sink, something must have been rotting in the garbage, and pizza boxes were strategically piled as high as the refrigerator. Hands on her hips, she marched towards her brother. "It's two in the afternoon. You don't need a beer."
"Oh, let the man have a beer, he's heartbroken," said Mark, her ex-boyfriend and brother's roommate, making himself comfortable on the couch with a large bag of potato chips. "Live a little!"
God, he was so cute. With his shining green eyes, dark shaggy brown hair, a trail of freckles sprinkled along his nose... and those dimples! Despite their insanely complicated and drawn out relationship, she still found herself having trouble being stern around him…she wanted to appear cute and happy-go-lucky.
But Simon needed someone to keep their house afloat. Mark certainly wasn't doing the best job.
"Have either of you seen the state of this house? If your landlord stopped by you would be evicted," she said as her foot stepped in a sticky puddle on the floor, causing her to grimace.
Simon shrugged. "Doesn't really sound like your problem."
Choosing to ignore the statement, she asked, "When are you planning on going back to work? It's been a month."
Reluctantly, he tossed the video game controller to the ground, squaring his shoulders to her. Jamming his thumb into his chest with each syllable, he said. "I'll go back to work when women stop breaking my fucking heart."
Crumbs of chips flew out of Mark's mouth as he laughed, clasping his hand on Simon's shoulder. "You might be waiting a while, buddy."
"You need to go back to work, man," Alice said, taking a seat next to Mark. She hated being a nag but Simon was getting ridiculous. "You need some form of structure. Pizza and beer isn't going to make you happy."
"Pfft, like you're one to talk," said Simon. "You're the one who dropped out of school. Eight months away from having your computer science degree, but nope, you couldn't handle it."
"I dropped out because I couldn't afford it! It had nothing to do with not being able to 'handle it'," she shot. After all she was doing to help him out he had the nerve to rub her biggest insecurity in her face? "Either I finished my degree or I would be homeless. Besides, at least I have a job."
"I have a job, too," Simon said as he crossed his arms. "I'm just taking an indefinite leave of absence."
Knowing she wouldn't win the battle, Alice surrendered the conversation to resume cleaning up her brother's mess in silence. She loved her brother, she really did, even if he was being a miserable jerk these days.
When Simon and Alice both graduated high school, their parents sold their family home to travel through America in a tiny RV, meaning Simon was the only family Alice had in Calgary, Alberta. Because of their close age, Simon being only a year older, they were especially close. In fact, Alice was a little ashamed to admit that her brother was one of her only friends since dropping out of university. The only other person she hung out with was Mark or her best friend, Emily, from high school. Even so, friends, siblings, whatever; after spending nearly every day for a month trying to help him get back on his feet while Mark sat there enabling him, she started to feel very unappreciated.
However, when Mark turned on the news and the anchorman announced the headlines it was evident that Alice's company was necessary.
"…Isaac Hanes of Hanes Pharmaceuticals, a true hero, has graciously donated 100,000$ to the children's hospital today…"
An empty beer bottle shattered against the wall, followed by Simon shouting, "FUCK YOU!".
"What the hell is your problem?" Alice asked with wide eyes as she rushed back into the living room. With both of his middle fingers pointing at the blonde man on the screen, Simon cursed even louder. Her eyes darted accusingly towards Mark, who looked completely un-phased by the sudden chaos. "Why are you letting him watch this!?"
"Oh, I guess I should turn it off…" Mark mumbled as he switched off the television.
"Do you know what that man has done to me, Alice?" Simon asked as he furiously paced around the room with his voice raising. Oh, god, not this again…she thought to herself. This had to be the third time that day.
"Yes, I'm well aware of – "
"That scumbag has fucked not only one of my fiancées," he lifted a single finger before continuing, "But two of my fiancées." He lifted the second.
"Trust me, we all know," she said, picking broken shards of glass from the floor.
"That man has single handily ruined my life twice," His stained vintage carpet was going to be worn to the cement by the time he was finished stomping around, "and yet, he is on the news being praised as a god damn hero!"
"I hate him, too, Simon," she said. "The moron made my life hell all throughout high school. Don't worry, no one in this room thinks he's a hero."
"I don't fuckin' get it," Simon said as he slumped back into his chair. "Why do I deserve this? It was bad enough when he had the affair with Susan when we were 18. I got over that alright, I guess. Life went on..."
Mark squeezed a pillow over his face to conceal his loud moan. If anyone had heard Simon retell the story more than Alice, it was Mark.
Simon continued his rant, "…But why would any god put me in the same city as that ASSHOLE whose only purpose in life is to RUIN MINE? I loved Chelsea…we were getting married in two months..."
Mark ran a hand through his hair and said, "I don't know, man…" It was evident he was beginning to run out of consoling responses.
"The worst part is that she hasn't even talked to me since…" said Simon, resting his chin fist as he stared gloomily out the window. "All she said was, 'Simon, I'm in love with Isaac Hanes and I'm leaving you. Goodbye.' And then she left…forever…"
"That's brutal, man," Mark said. "I mean, when I broke up with Alice, at least I least still talked to her all the time."
"Yeah, but it's kind of weird, honestly. And can't be healthy at all…" she said, reflecting on her and Mark's long drawn out relationship.
They were the epitome of an 'on-and-off-couple.' They dated when she was 16 until she was 19, until he rudely broke up with her on their first days of college. Not long after the break-up, which caused many nights of eating ice-cream right out of the bucket while crying over her Algorithms For Beginners textbook, Mark confessed he still loved her but couldn't deal with commitment while in college.
This prompted the next three years as being an emotional rollercoaster; Alice anxiously waiting for his text messages, hoping he would pay her a visit to her dorm, and Mark getting wasted in fraternities until he dropped out of school to work on the oil rigs. Once he quit college their relationship actually improved, and for a while, Alice thought maybe it would work out. Until one night completely out of the blue he ended things for good without any clear reason, thus creating the weirdest dynamic ever. Him being her brother's best friend and roommate and her being forced to spend every social occasion with her ex-boyfriend over the next three years. Let's just say, past nine years have been filled with tremendous heartache.
But she still couldn't help but feel like they were maybe meant to be. Can't have that much history and have it not mean something, right?
Mark interrupted her thoughts, "Oh, come on. I think we are lucky to be friends with everything that happened."
"Yes. I'm sooo blessed to have the boyfriend who dumped me so he could hook up with hotter chicks in college live with my brother. So damn lucky."
"If it makes you feel any better I never did find anyone who was hotter."
"Th-that," she stammered, trying not to blush. She must be getting desperate for male attention if that sad excuse of a compliment made her feel all tingly. She cleared her throat before saying, "I really don't care."
"Can we please go back to focussing on me?" Simon groaned.
Alice glanced at her watch quickly and gasped. "Agh, sorry, Simon! I've actually gotta go to work."
"I have to take a shower, anyways," Simon said as he dragged his feet to the bathroom. "Time to drown my sorrows, I guess…"
When the water from the shower could be heard from the living room, Mark walked towards Alice, who was frantically searching the room for her work uniform. He ran his hand through his shaggy dark brown hair and said, "You know I'm just messing with you when I tease you, right?"
"Yes, Mark. I know," she said, barely looking at him. "Trust me, I've gotten used to being the human pin cushion around here."
"You're doing a great job with Simon," he said, sheepishly smiling down at her. His dimples made all previous annoyance disintegrate. "I don't know how I'd handle him without you. Lord knows what he would have done."
"Well, you know me," she said, throwing her tacky red polo t-shirt over her tank top, "Nothing I love more than shutting down binge-drinking escapades and cleaning up pizza boxes."
"That's not true," he said, his hand reflexively brushing a strand of her red hair from her eyes, making her attempt to hide her blushing cheeks. "No one parties harder than Alice Black."
"Considering the closest thing I do to partying anymore is drinking cheap wine while watching cheesy sitcoms, I think that saying can be revoked," she said, feeling depressed that that had become her reality. "Anyways, I've gotta head out. Make sure Simon doesn't off himself."
Later that night, Alice stood behind the bar of the empty restaurant polishing wine glasses. It was yet another quiet night at work with no tips. Oh, how she wished she had been hired at a busy nightclub, even a pub would have been nice. Unfortunately, Sally's Spaghetti House, a locally owned family restaurant months away from being shut down, was the only place to hire her.
It was no surprise to Alice that she was denied from the lively nightclubs and bars. She was cute enough to work at a spaghetti house but she sure wasn't hot enough to work at a nightclub. Her dark brown eyes were nice, but they didn't have the sexy allure that attracted business. The long red hair that fell down her back was unique, but it lacked the bouncy volume that men seemed to love. Really, the only feature that attracted people was the light dusting of freckles on her nose, but they only attracted the creepy dads who ogled her as she served their children spaghetti.
"Hey Alice," her manager, Kathleen, walked towards with a stack of dirty dishes. "Unless we start getting some tables you'll be sent home early."
Alice's heart sank as she stared pleadingly at her dark-skinned boss. "No, Kathleen, please…I need the hours."
"Sorry," she shrugged, "Tammy's closing tonight."
"What? But…but she's been closing all week," She didn't mean to make her voice sound so whiny, it just happened. "I've been working here a year longer. Th-that's not fair."
"She's better at upselling, Alice. It's business." Ouch.
When Kathleen turned her back on her, Alice swooped in front of her, making a last-ditch attempt to sway her mind. "I promise I'll get better. Trust me, I will force spaghetti down their throats!"
"As tempting as a lawsuit would be," she stepped around Alice and gave a cold smile, "you don't care about this job. It's obvious that you think you're wasting your time working here. It shows in your work ethic."
Sorry I don't have a passion for spaghetti, she thought to herself, refraining from rolling her eyes.
Kathleen continued, "Listen, we've been waiting over a year for you to show a little more ambition. We all like you, so don't worry, you still have a job. But…you can't be surprised when people who show a little more incentive begin reaping the rewards."
Quickly, Kathleen turned on her heel and sped away from Alice before she could argue anymore. Biting her tongue from saying anything inappropriate to her boss, she searched her apron to grab all the tips she made that night. She counted everything, all the way to the nickels, subtracted her cash to remit, tip out to the kitchen…that left her with…
She made seven dollars that night.
Feeling weighed down by the pressure, her elbows slumped to the counter and she grabbed her face, rubbing her eyes until she saw stars. Rent, phone bill, electricity, water, student loan payments…she groaned to herself. Great, with these seven whole dollars, I'll have enough to cover a third of my payments.
How did this even happen? How did she end up at a point in her life where she was punished for not caring about spaghetti? It was hard to believe that merely three years ago she was a passionate and enthusiastic student at the top of her computer sciences program. For fun she would create simple smartphone apps, in her spare time she would volunteer to help her friends with their website designing, she would do math to relax…
And now she was serving spaghetti. What a twist.
She folded her hands together and stared at the ceiling. Neither religion nor spirituality was her thing, but as the daunting bills piled up and the thought of being homeless became more of a reality, she prayed. She didn't know what she was praying to…she was just begging for some miracle. Something to get her out of this financial hole. Anything.
"Can I get a scotch and soda?"
Excited to finally have a customer, she put on the happiest smile she could muster and spun around. Then her stomach flopped.
No, no, no, no, no, no, she thought to herself, NO.
Standing right in front of her was the man who made adolescence so miserable. The man who had been the topic of discussion in her brother's house for the past month. The man she hoped she would never see again. With his neatly styled blonde hair falling effortlessly in front of his piercing blue eyes, straight white teeth, and a Rolex watch that probably cost just as much as his suit, he leaned against the bar.
It was Isaac Hanes.
He was annoyingly attractive.
"No," she blurted out after an awkwardly long silence.
Smirking, he scanned the room with his eyes as he made himself comfortable on the bar stool. "This is quite the establishment. I like the little meatballs with happy faces."
She could only gawk at him for his blasé attitude.
He continued his thought, "But, you know, I always thought you'd be a scientist or something by now. What happened?"
What an asshole, she thought.
How dare he come into her place of employment and ridicule her? And to ask her to rehash the worst experiences of her life to him? She hated the way his smile that didn't seem to weaken despite her cold glare. Even more, she hated that besides a few laugh lines around his eyes and a bit of facial hair on his cheeks, he looked the exact same as he did in high school. In fact, his aging characteristics only made him look more sophisticated. A very deceiving trait for such a moron.
Finally, she said through gritted teeth, "What are you doing here?"
"I happen to like spaghetti."
"I like spaghetti."
Unbelievable. He actually thought she was going to serve him. She pointed to the door. "Get out."
"So, how have you been lately?"
What the hell is wrong with this guy?
"I told you to get out."
"Oh, I've been great. Thanks for asking."
"I'm not going to serve you."
"Would you like to get a drink tomorrow night?"
She nearly fell over. There was no way he was asking her out on a date. No way. Even Isaac, the most pompous person on the planet, must know better that. Anger boiled inside of her and she slammed her hands on the bar. Trying to keep her voice quiet, but venomous, she hissed, "What is wrong with you?"
"What's wrong with two old peers going out for a casual drink?" he asked. She quickly fantasized about slapping the grin right off his stupid, smug face.
"You know what's wrong with it," she said, putting her hands on her hips. "You know what you did to my brother."
"I think there's a misundersta – "
"I have the right to refuse service to anyone," she shouted louder than intended. "For the last time, get out."
"But I'm a paying customer," he said with a fake angelic face. His gaze fell behind her shoulder to the stack of coins behind Alice. "How much did you make tonight? Looks about, what, about nine dollars?"
Furious that even as he was trying to make a mockery of her income he still managed to overestimate, she stomped her foot to the ground. "Get out right now or I'm calling the cops."
He rested his elbow on the bar and tapped his index finger on his lips. "No you're not."
Finally, the cocky smirk faltered and he stared at her as if trying to find a fallacy in her words. Tension rose as they both waited for the other to make the next move, but when she took a single step towards the phone he raised his hands to show he surrendered.
"Fine," he said with a tight-lipped smile. "Thank you for the wonderful service."
Instead of responding she turned her back on him, pretending to be enthralled by polishing wine glasses. Once his footsteps sounded further away, signaling he was nearly gone, she quickly glanced at him. As if on cue, he turned his neck just in time to send her one last grin before walking out the door.